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Harold Goodwin: Change of pace in Cardinals backfield sets up passing game

Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) celebrates a run against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

LISTEN: Harold Goodwin, Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator

In 2014, the Arizona Cardinals averaged just 81.8 rushing yards per game — second to last in the league in front of only the Oakland Raiders.

This year, Cardinals’ offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin is dealing with a far different situation. Arizona is currently ranked 11th in the league with an average of 124.7 rushing yards per game.

“Throughout the offseason I kept harping on that we were second to last in the league last year in rushing,” Goodwin said on Cardinals Red Sea Report on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “You know a major emphasis on just doing a better job of blocking on the perimeter, also interior as far as offensive line and tight ends. And the running backs, just seeing what we’re trying to do upfront. Just trying to be on the same page and so far, so good.”

One of the key parts of the Cardinals’ ground game is veteran running back Chris Johnson, a guy who very well could have been playing elsewhere this season if not for injuries to Andre Ellington and David Johnson.

“The guy is a quiet kid, he does a great job, he works his butt off. Just like any other running back or skilled player, he wants the ball and when he gets it in his hands he’s electric. I’m excited to have him,” Goodwin said.

Johnson ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing in Week 3 after totaling 110 yards against the 49ers.

“Since he’s been here he’s a good protector, he’s been running the ball hard and he brings another element to the game that we love,” Goodwin said.

Through the first three weeks of the season, the Cardinals are ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense, averaging 391 yards per game.

“The running games been huge. It sets up the passing game, especially all the play action passes we take in a game,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said that keeping Carson Palmer comfortable will be big this weekend against the Rams.

“When he’s protected, the sky’s the limit for us” Goodwin said. “Without him, it gets a little tougher but we still have capable guys that can take us down the field and help us win games but he’s the guy. With him we can go a long way.”

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